Recently, we collaborated with the good people at Grace Assembly of God (GAOG) for a music video on a very special song (if you haven’t seen it already, it’s above!).
As part of our #THIRSTACOUSTIC series where we shine a light on local Christian music, we filmed NXTGEN Worship worshipping with “What A Sacrifice” — an anointed song off their latest album “Eyes to See”.
There’s always a message behind the music, so we caught up with songwriter NELL SHEN (27) and music producer CALEB NG (28) for the full story story behind the song (as well as advice for aspiring Christian musicians!).
Tell us more about the song, What A Sacrifice. How did it come about and what does it mean to you?
NELL: The song came about because I realised how weighty Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross truly is. Sometimes I even struggle to describe that weight because it surpasses any concept, definition or experience of sacrifice you can think of.
CALEB: This song is a reminder for me about the price Jesus paid for my salvation. Jesus’ sacrifice forms the cornerstone of my life – everything that I do.
This song is part of an album that our youth and young adult worship team put together last year. The conviction that Jesus gave His life for us leads us to respond with this song in thanksgiving, along with the rest of the album.
Considering the lyrics of the song, was What A Sacrifice written with Easter/Good Friday in mind?
NELL: Yes and no! No because in 2018, I really wanted to pen a song that spoke of the price Christ paid in dying for my sins.
Previously I was writing more introspective and personal songs that were birthed from difficult seasons in my life when I encountered God.
I was drawn to the truth of the Gospel and this sacrifice enabled me to stand here today, triumphant over any circumstances. This song is rooted in the nature of who God says He is – and that’s factual!
CALEB: And… yes in the sense that although the song was written in 2018, we only produced it last year in 2022 as it was aligned to our church’s Good Friday presentation and sermon series. This is actually almost like the song celebrating her first birthday!
What is one thing you want people to take away from the song?
CALEB: Just as Nell shared, we really hope that any listener who hears this song will know that the truth of the Gospel will triumph over any circumstance!
We’ve been singing this song for nearly a year in church, and the initial congregational response was very encouraging for us as we witnessed people worshipping with us.
And when we released the song on Spotify , we were further encouraged by people who sent messages to tell us that they listened to the song every day.
They did so because they got to experience the peace of God while listening — that was such an incredible testimony for me to receive.
What were some challenges you faced and lessons learnt in the songwriting process?
NELL: A very practical lesson that I learnt from this song is “don’t give up”.
Shout out to songwriters and those who have a budding interest – be prepared for songwriting to be a long process.
Initially, when the song was first completed all those years ago, it was clear that it wasn’t ready yet.
I didn’t know how to improve it and I also couldn’t get feedback on what I could change as well. When that happens it can feel like you just have to move on to your next song.
However, ahead of Good Friday last year, I really felt a stirring in my spirit that this song had a potential to be a voice of worship for our generation.
When my husband started playing around with the song to help me, he suggested removing the pre-choruses (which were all unique throughout the song).
And I guess that is the second lesson: to be willing to be your harshest critic. I was dismayed when my husband suggested it because I really valued the pre-choruses, I thought they conveyed the weight of the song.
I remember that one of the lyrics of the pre-chorus went like this: “I could spend my life to wonder but I could never comprehend the weight You’ve had to shoulder”.
I thought it was so affective. But eventually, I recognised that the multiple pre-choruses would not be helpful for a congregational song and took them out.
CALEB NG: The biggest takeaway for me – because I saw it come to fruition through this song and the album — was learning to trust in God’s direction.
If you can sense His prompting, be obedient to what He has instructed you, especially when it gets tough.
There were so many times I just wanted to give up but I really felt the burden from the Lord that these songs were meant for our congregation to worship Him with!
The second takeaway was be open to collaboration! Partnering with Nell to produce this song helped strengthen the song lyrically and musically.
We also had fun together in the worship ministry, which we sometimes can overlook, but is actually very necessary in keeping on in the creative journey.
We really believe that the talents God gave us are to bless the community and this song really is a testimony of what God intended for the Church — that our gifts bless the Kingdom and beyond!